Few days before Diwali, Union health minister and Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan had requested lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung to ensure a "silent Diwali" in the capital. The Delhi government then set up an inter-departmental team to implement the 2005 Supreme Court ban on bursting of sound-emitting firecrackers between 10pm and 6am.
However, with residents bursting crackers even past midnight, noise pollution levels breached the safe standard at most monitoring stations set up by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The government's warning to punish those flouting the ban also seemed to have little effect. Till Friday night, Delhi Police could not come up with any such prosecution.
There was no reduction in noise levels compared to last year either, according to the CPCB monitoring data. It also reveals that the level was within the night limit of 45 Leq dB (A) only at Dilshad Garden.
In most colonies, the noise level was at its peak between 8 and 9pm. It consistently stayed high even after 10pm. The choice of crackers for these late-night revellers was the loudest varieties.
Experts say it is important to make the deadline more realistic. "Implementing this kind of a ban requires a lead time for preparation. The authorities need to advertise and sensitize people about such restrictions and the heavy penalty involved in case of a violation. The authorities can't be high handed during a festival, necessitating campaigns at the community level," said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE's Clean Air programme.
Vardhan had said Delhi had failed to implement the order while many state governments had been quite successful in restricting noise levels during festivals. "I hope that under your direction, Delhi will turn a corner from this Diwali onwards," the health minister had written to Jung.
DPCC had formed eight teams to assist the district magistrates and police to visit various areas to check the level of noise pollution and cracker shops.
The sub-divisional magistrates and police officials, being the designated authorities, were to ensure compliance of the SC order. The police department was supposed to sensitize PCR vans to keep a vigil. SDMs were also asked to organize awareness meetings with resident welfare associations and market trader associations in the run-up to Diwali.
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